Yesterday, Pam and I went into London to share in the Baptism of the second son of dear friends from our S Thomas's days. The first time I have done the Ordinariate Baptism Rite.
The Assumption and S Gregory, Warwick Street, must be one of our most interesting and beautiful Catholic Churches in England; the Ordinariate was very lucky to be given the use of it, in accordance with the directions of Benedict XVI's Anglicanorum coetibus, by the gracious decision of the Diocese of Westminster. Many readers will know that it was at first the Portuguese Embassy Chapel, then the Bavarian. (During the years of persecution, the only Catholic churches open for worship were the Embassy Chapels of the Catholic powers.) Directly above the font where I baptised a very suave and properly-conducted young man, hung the flag of the Head of the House of Wittelsbach. Not long ago I was there to preach to the Knights of Malta. 'Warwick Street' is undoubtedly a connoisseurs' Church!
The Church was decently full. But there was room for more. I can't understand why it isn't absolutely packed out to the rafters ... chokka ... a historic Church (it has the immense distinction of having been sacked during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots) with Alpha Traditional Liturgy. Pontifical Sung Mass on many Sundays; a reputation for good-quality preaching; a fine professional choir; highly competent servers; the Ordinariate Rite, which readers will know as an elegant combination of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Tudor English versus Orientem with orthodox features from the Prayer Book tradition of the Church of England. And in the historic heart of London's vibrant West End, just a step from Piccadilly Circus and Theatreland and Chinatown.
Like other Catholic churches built in the days of persecution, it has some of the features of a Georgian Methodist Chapel: an unobtrusive facade and internal galleries. Above the door to the Sacristy is a fine marble bas-relief of the Assumption by J E Carew (a very popular Irish neo-classical sculptor ... his main patron was the Earl of Egremont, who employed him and Turner and 'Capability' Brown at Petworth). This Assumption was originally above the High Altar until Bentley removed it to make way for a bigger sanctuary in the style of Westminster Cathedral (which he had just built).
In other words, the best of pretty well everything!
Especially yesterday's civilised and amiable baptismal neophyte, his brother and his parents and grandparents and families and godparents (and their young families!).
What's not to like?
I was made very welcome by Mgr Newton and Gill, and by the invariably cheerful pp Fr Mark Elliott Smith. Real warmth! And I remet Fr Anthony Edwards after a lapse of decades: a dear Staggers friend and a fine Oz wit, who lent us his Dolphin Square flat for part of our honeymoon, all of 51 years ago. Not many of the English Catholic clergy can boast of being incardinated into the diocese of Lugano!
A warning: UNTIL EASTER, not all the weekday Masses are in the Ordinariate Rite. AFTER EASTER, nearly all of them will be Ordinariate, except for a Vigil Mass which will be in the Novus Ordo, and a couple of Masses in the Extraordinary Form: Wednesday 7 p.m.; Saturday 12..